Why I Adopted The Ultimate Minimalist Wardrobe

Illustrated by Alex Marino
We don't just appreciate an inspired ensemble. We want to know the whole making-of story behind it. But in Style Roots, we're going one better. In partnership with Nordstrom Rack, this series will deep-dive into the real sartorial evolutions of seven city dwellers who all came from very different starts. Be it a streetwear OG or newbie vintage collector, we'll examine how past and present cultural, social, and career influences mold one's unique style persona.

Typically, our style evolutions happen in tandem with major setting changes, such as starting a new job or relocating to a new city. But every now and then, the most eye-opening fashion lessons stem from more unexpected experiences. For Washington, D.C. native Allison Jordan, that was especially true when a neurological illness she faced forced her to get back to the basics with her once-experimental wardrobe.

While trying to conserve what little strength she had, Jordan asked herself, Do I want to spend my energy figuring out which outfit to wear or do I want to spend it on something that is meaningful and productive? The answer was obvious, so she purged. The result? A handful of mostly black staples that set the foundation for an effortless wardrobe and make her feel, as she puts it, like her "most radiant self."

Now, after recovering and moving to Chicago to attend art school for the summer, Jordan refuses to let anything she doesn't absolutely love into her closet. And she's harnessing that attitude in all aspects of her life, from being totally in-tune with her needs to designating time for the people and things that truly make her shine. Ahead, see how her newly adopted minimalist look translates into a state of mind.

Be sure to check out Nordstrom Rack's new store, opening October 27 at 12th & E Street in Washington, D.C. Get the details here.
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
My biggest style lesson occurred when...
"In 2014, I left [my then-home of] New York and came home to D.C. to convalesce because of a health scare. Through that process, I got rid of five huge contractor bags of clothing. I had very little energy, so I decided to get rid of everything that didn't make me feel amazing. What I was left with was mostly black, loose items and some fun, dramatic shapes. After that, I changed my habits of consumption to reflect this new kind of incidental curation. So, now I only buy things that make me feel like my most radiant self."
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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
When I think back on my style before everything changed...
"I grew up in D.C. proper, and it's kind of isolated. When I was younger, there weren't a bunch of neighborhood kids running around, so I didn't take my style cues from peers. That led me to look to other sources for style inspiration, whether that was my mom, other family members, or the internet — once that became a thing. In high school, I started to branch out more. I came into my own and dressed very girl-next-door for the first couple of years. Then I went alternative and really began to experiment."

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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
Dealing with a health scare prompted my minimalist mindset because...
"I didn't realize that there was a correlation between the literal baggage I was carrying around with me and the overwhelmed bogged-down feeling I was experiencing. It didn't click until I got sick because I kind of lost everything. I had to give so many things up when I became ill and so many relationships fell by the wayside because I didn't have the energy to keep them up. Once I got better, I hand-picked everything that I allowed back into my life. And so, I only took the best of everything that I had before and left everything else."

Other aspects of my life that I've streamlined include...
"About a year after getting sick, I shaved my head. I wanted to take [my life] a step further in the direction of minimalism and apply that same principle to my hair. I thought, I don't want to take care of my hair, so I'm going to shave it off. It was the next iteration of the same line of thought (I had with my clothing). [Even in my social life,] I now have a lot of one-on-one reconnection sessions with people that are important to me, as opposed to going out, seeing a bunch of people, and leaving without having a real connection throughout the whole night."

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Illustrated by Alex Marino.
One piece of clothing I've given up for good is...
"I don't wear jeans anymore. It's hard to find jeans that fit a woman of my proportions. Whenever I wore them, I'd constantly have to fuss with my clothing — and that just reminded me that my body didn't fit this ideal every time I reached down to adjust my pants. Now, I look for things that fit. It doesn't matter what the size or the label is, or whether it's meant for a man or child, even. If it works for me, then it's great."

I can't live without...
"My accessories are my constant, and they anchor me. I have very few of them, but I wear them every day. Right now, I have one pair of leather black sneakers, one pair of high-heeled boots, and one pair of lace-up heels. Those are the three shoes that I have worn for the past six months to a year."

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Illustrated by Alex Marino.